What attracted you to bees? Most people do their very best to avoid them.
I think I’m fascinated with their social structure, and their ability to adapt to conditions and mobilize work tasks to adjust to those conditions.
Do you take lessons for your life from the bees?
With Lyme disease, I had to accept challenges and limitations that I didn’t have before. I had to learn to go with what I had rather than living a Type-A existence, which is how I was living.
What kinds of symptoms did you have?
Extreme fatigue, very stiff joints, ringing in my ears, extreme sensitivity to any kind of noise, difficulty seeing clearly. It was hard to read; when I saw words, oftentimes I could not comprehend them.
You have few symptoms now. What do you attribute that to?
I found I always felt better in the springtime when the bees were more testy and I got stung more often. One day, I dropped a box of bees and got stung probably 30 times and I felt great; my Lyme conditions for the most part were gone for about a week. After that, I did some studying on apitherapy [using bee products for health and healing]. I started routinely stinging myself after that. I was probably doing close to 30 stings three times a week for a while. It got to the point when I was fatigued, family and friends would say “go stick your head in beehive and kick it, because you’re going downhill.” So other people saw the difference, too.
How is the stinging done?
The best way to do it, you go along the same lines of the meridian that acupuncture does. There are energy pathways in your body that, when stimulated, produce different effects.
I would ice the areas to be stung — wrists, elbows, shoulders, hip joints, knees, and ankles. Then you grab a bee with a hair clip and press it onto the area. The bee’s reaction is to sting.
Do you still do it?
Now, I just take whatever stings I get in my normal day with the bees. I still have some minor symptoms, like with my vision, but I just turned 48, so it could be my age.
At some point you started doing it for other people …
I had a person approach me who had multiple sclerosis. He did probably upwards of 30 to 40 stings every other day. After two and a half months of this, he had greatly reduced symptoms. My most clearly successful encounter is a young girl in college, who had had three to five migraine headaches a week since she was a teenager.
We worked up to eight stings, three sessions of that, then she went almost a year without migraine. The headaches came back, so we did it again, and she hasn’t had one since.
I’ve treated probably 30 people, maybe more. Sometimes people don’t follow through with it, and it’s not going to work for everybody.
Do you worry about anaphylactic shock?
It is a worry, but it’s much more rare than people think. It’s akin to being run over by truck, or getting hit by lighting.
What do you say to people who think apitherapy is voodoo medicine?
I say there are thousands of years of human use of alternative practices that have worked very well.
You’re called a “Zen beekeeper.”
That was coined because I give seminars on beekeeping, and I mentor people. The normal human instinct is to be afraid of stinging, buzzing insects; it’s part of our makeup. Bees pick up on our anxiety.
There are people I won’t work a beehive around, because their energy level is so intense the bees become agitated and because I’m there, I’m moving, I’m the one who gets hit. I encourage people to be in a state of awe, a Zen-like state of comfort where you are at peace within yourself and at peace with the bees. The bees will pick up on that, just like they do a state of anxiety. It’s just being one with the bees.
I also study a little Zen. I study many different disciplines: philosophy and different religions, mysticism.
So it’s a natural thing for you to view bees through that lens …
Yes, and I’ve always kept animals,kept just about everything you can keep, and in doing that have a good state that I can put out toward animals — and children, too. I put out that they’re safe with me, that I care for them, and they respond with trust.
Kind of a Dr. Doolittle …
Yes, I have a woman who started to call me a bee whisperer.
Do you wear protective clothing?
As necessary. During the summertime, I generally wear sandals, shorts. I may have T-shirt on, maybe not. I’m not foolish — if the bees get testy and start to fly in my face, I put on a head net. I tell people the safest thing to do is wear a head net. Bees are programmed to go after your eyes. If you get hit in the eyeball, it could swell up and pop.
Pop. And that’s a very dangerous situation. Not life-threatening, but dangerous.
Any advice for people who want to avoid getting stung?
Bees are very sensitive to your mood. If you panic, you increase the chances of being stung by hundreds of times. The best thing is to believe it won’t sting you. NH
This article appears in the June 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine